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Home >> Business
UPDATED: 09:22, July 02, 2006
China Exclusive: High-tech features first Tibetan railway
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The first railroad linking Tibet with the rest of China, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, opened on Saturday with state-of-the-art technologies both on the railroad and trains.

Addressing the railway's opening ceremony in Golmud, the line's start-off point in northwest China's Qinghai Province, President Hu Jintao said the project is "not only a magnificent feat in China's history of railway construction, but is also a great miracle of the world's railroad history."

"We made quite a few of innovations and breakthroughs in the construction of the railway and trains are also equipped with advanced technologies," said Zhu Zhensheng, vice director of the Ministry of Railways office in charge of the new line.

China has solved three major difficulties, namely frozen tundra, high altitude and plateau environmental protection, to rewrite the world's history of railway, he said.

About 550 kilometers of the tracks run on frozen earth, the longest in the world's plateau railways, posing great challenges for designing and construction, he said.

The oxygen content along the railway is only 50-60 percent of that at sea level as 960 km of tracks are located at more than 4, 000 meters above sea level, Zhu said.

The annual average temperature on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is below zero degree Celsius with the minimum temperature at 45 degree Celsius below zero.

None of the hundreds of thousands of workers died of altitude sickness in the past five years, making a medical miracle, said Professor John West with the School of Medicine, University of California, San Diego.

Based on preparatory work carried out over the past four decades, Chinese engineers have used stone slabs to build embankments that cool without breaking up, and thrust steel tubes into the ground along some parts of the route, to transmit heat from beneath the icy surface.

They also built bridges rather than causeways on extremely unstable permafrost regions.

The railway uses sealed, oxygenated cars to cope with the thin air and high-tech cooling to keep the frozen track bed stable.

Two oxygen supply systems have been installed on the train. One is a "dispersion-mode" oxygen supply system, with oxygen spreading to the air in the railway car through the air-conditioning system.

The other system, like that of an airplane, offers each passenger individual access to oxygen, and passengers who experience breathing difficulties at high altitudes can use a pipe to suck up more oxygen.

Meanwhile, all railway cars are equipped with double-layer glass which is covered with anti-ultraviolet radiation film.

The trains running on the Qinghai-Tibet Railway are driven by engines made by U.S.-based General Electric, which show great traction and brake powers, low power cost and high reliability, said Zhu.

The Chinese government will spend 13 million yuan (1.625 million U.S. dollars) on an earthquake warning system along the southern section of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

Two comprehensive seismic monitoring stations and a global positioning system observation center would be constructed along the Golmud-Lhasa section to form an alarm network with the existing monitoring station at Nagqu Township, said Peng Fengshan, head of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Seismological Bureau.

"The Golmud-Lhasa section of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway passes through a region where moderate quakes measuring up to six on the Richter scale occur annually," said Peng.

At a cost of 33 billion yuan (4.1 billion U.S. dollars), Chinese President Hu Jintao said the railway was an important part of China's historic efforts to modernize the country and further confirmation that the fast-developing nation was indisputably one of the world's great powers.

"This success again shows the hard working and wise people of China have the courage, confidence and ability to continue to create miracles," Hu said. "We also have the courage, confidence and ability to stand among the advanced peoples of the world."

More than 1,300 years ago, ruler of ancient Tibet Songzan Gambo had to wait for three years for his bride, Princess Wencheng, to travel all the way from the inland areas. Today, Beijing is only 48 hours away.

The Chinese government is to build three more railway lines in Tibet as extensions of the newly-completed railway, which would link the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, with Nyingchi to the east, and Xigaze to the west, while the third will link Xigaze with Yadong, a major trading town on the China-India border.

The new lines would be built in 10 years, and increase Tibet's total railway length to more than 2,000 kilometers.

Source: Xinhua

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